Hazing that involves sexual acts or sexual contact is sometimes difficult for service members to recognize as criminal behavior, especially if it’s seen as a ritual of brotherhood or rite of passage among Soldiers.When Edward, a former artillery Soldier, joined the Army at 19, he witnessed hazing done to Soldiers in his unit. Like many back then, he didn’t know he had witnessed a sexual assault.“I was stationed in a field artillery unit in Germany. It was a good unit and we had a great time as Soldiers and brothers-in-arms,” he said. “The morale was awesome within our tight knit group. We always played jokes on each other, but never anything to hurt anyone too bad. One weekend some of the guys were up to their tricks and grabbed one of the new guys for a hazing activity. Hazing was commonplace and somewhat of a tradition at the time.”The hazing didn’t happen to everyone, just a few guys, normally the new Soldiers who really couldn’t defend themselves against a group. There were different types of hazing that took place – guys being hung out of a barracks window or being taped in their sleeping bags like mummies, to name a few. Fortunately, Edward said, he was never hazed due to his size and his popularity in the unit.Edward said he recalls being on staff duty one night in particular. He knew the weekends could get a little wild with his fellow Soldiers because they often partied after a long work week. That night a group of guys grabbed a new Soldier, pulled down his pants and took green duct-tape that was commonly referred to as “100 mile per hour tape” and placed it over the Soldier’s genitals.“As you can imagine, the poor guy didn’t have a chance with the party of six to seven guys holding him down while they hazed him,” Edward said. “He fought hard to get away during the hazing. Once they were done, they all laughed and so did he (after the hazing ended). Nothing was reported and no one had anything to say about the many hazing that took place in the battalion. I also witnessed a Soldier get too drunk and the guys drew a face on his butt with a tongue coming from the center of his butt cheeks.”At the time, Edward said he didn’t know the acts he’d witnessed were sexual in nature, not just hazing but sexual assaults. Unnecessarily exposing someone to an act which is cruel, abusive, oppressive or harmful and sexual in nature is also a criminal act.According to the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention website, most researchers suggest the actual number of people who have experienced hazing in the military is likely higher than what is being reported. Hazing and other sexual assaults often leave victims riddled with embarrassment and shame over what has happened to them. The goal of the SHARP program is to eliminate sexual assaults and sexual harassment by creating a climate that respects the dignity of every member of the Army family.“For a very long time, no one reported or really did a thing about those type hazing traditions in the military,” Edward said. “It was just a part of the culture. Installations now have SHARP teams in place to help victims report incidents of sexual violence. We have professionals who can talk about male victimization, the unique characteristics of male sexual violence, and how the military supports survivors. This is also personal for me. I have a really good friend from high school who went through this. He told me his having undergone a sexual assault was one of the reasons why he left military service years ago. He’s actually trying to get help right now for the sexual trauma it has caused him. Today all military service members can get help for sexual harassment and sexual assault and have something done to protect themselves against it.”